Title: It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist
It Happened at the Fair Series Book One
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Imprint: Howard Books
Genre: Historical, Christian, Romance
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the Fair’s Machinery Palace makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.
The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?
With It Happened at the Fair, Deeanne Gist brings readers yet another beautifully written romance that is quite charming. Lead protagonists Cullen McNamara and Della Wentworth are beautifully developed and the storyline is riveting. But it is Ms Gist’s meticulous research that makes this book such an outstanding read. Her attention to historical detail is phenomenal and her descriptions of the Chicago World’s Fair bring this story vibrantly to life.
Cullen is quite a bit older than Della but she is quite mature (and sensible) for her young age. Cullen is quite sweet and he always treats Della with utmost respect. He is very humble and lacks self-confidence when it comes to his invention. In the beginning of the story, due to her father’s dire warnings about strangers, Della is very cautious around Cullen. She slowly relaxes her guard around Cullen, but late in the novel, a secret Cullen has been keeping threatens to destroy their relationship.
Ms. Gist does not shy away from sensitive topics in her novels and It Happened at the Fair is no exception. She fully explores the controversy that surrounded teaching deaf students lip reading versus sign language. The reactions to Cullen’s increasing deafness accurately portray the prejudice and misconceptions that were often encountered by deaf people during the time period. Adding to the story’s authenticity is Cullen’s increasing concern about the growing recession and financial instability of banking institutions.
It Happened at the Fair is a fascinating historical romance and Deeanne Gist does a wonderful job incorporating fact with fiction. It is an informative and entertaining novel that is quite engrossing. An incredibly well-written story that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a sweet romance with a light Christian element.